Hi there. My name is Stan, and I am running for (fill in the blank).
A little biographical background.
At one point or another in my life, I have violated every one of the Ten Commandments, and several more besides. I killed human beings and burned down their houses (for which I was paid and praised); and then I did a lot of drugs and alcohol. I used prostituted women, too, in my youth, as well as masturbating to pornography. I violated quite a few secular statutes, too, from selling weed to assault and battery to driving drunk, conspiracy, grand larceny, and a few things I can't afford to admit in this public venue.
Later in life, I felt pretty badly about some of this stuff, and I directed my own guilt into rage at the system that formed me, so I became a communist. Some of my friends are still communists, even some (gasp!) Black communists!
I've also been a go-along coward in more ways than I can count, especially as a white man.
And sometimes I don't wash my hands after I pee.
Now I'm a Christian, but not what most people think Christians are—I pretty much hate my government and the whole US economy, I find nationalism (and the flag) repulsive, I don't think veterans (I am one) are any more special than anyone else, and I am convinced that most White people (I am one) are racist as hell. Likewise, I think most men (I am one) are sexist as hell. America is not the City on the Hill; it is a malevolent empire that has "turned a fruitful land into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who rule there."
So if anyone is campaigning against me, there are some sticks to beat me with . . . have at it.
My guiding principle once I am elected to whatever office will be to disassemble American power abroad, and promote the antithesis of "growth" (degrowth?) in the economy at home. I also want to fire about eighty percent of the nation's police forces, because they are like armed gangs running amok. I’d definitely try to take away their guns—like they do in Great Britain. I want to take most of the guns away from citizens, too.
I want to open the borders unconditionally, because if capital can cross borders without any hassle, so should labor . . . eh?
The Constitution might be an impediment to me taking office, because one has to swear fealty to this dusty old document, which, in my own view, is virtually worthless. Also, as a Christian, I don’t take oaths. But . . . freedom of religion, yeah?
I am not conservative. I am not progressive. I am not Republican. I am not Democrat.
I will not tell you about "our" glorious past," and I will not pump sunshine up your collective ass about our brilliant future. As a freshly minted politician, I am telling you right now that no matter what we do, things are going to go dramatically downhill—they are already—and most of the Big Problems on the horizon (?) we are powerless to fix.
I'm also going to emphasize something you won't hear in much political-rectal-sunshine talk: every last one of us is going to die. You can't win. You can't break even. You can't get out of the game. Life ends, often with pain, misery, and diapers. I can't fix that, nor can anyone else running for office. You could hand over absolute power to the most brilliant leader the world has ever known, and still . . . you, me, your loved ones, and the great leader, are all destined for debility, death, and decay. What does this have to do with politics? Well, in our culture, we want to deny death, and it becomes kind of a dirty political secret. Rectal sunshine is all about the eminently saleable eternal bloom of youth, the New Future, space colonization, and happily ever after.
And another thing . . .
Rights are political fictions. All "men" are NOT endowed by their creator with certain rights, because there is no such thing as a universal right that everyone actually has. There never has been. Not once. And there never will be. Ever. Pipedream.
We don’t often think of the political fiction of “rights” in terms of how rights are associated with technology; and likewise we seldom think of technology as representing—as capital does—an asymmetric relation between people disguised as a morally neutral relation between things. Marx was half right . . .
(I am an ally of the left, just because I hate macho authoritarianism, war, and capitalism . . . but I am not a leftist. Like I said, I am a God-bothering theocrat.)
Nonetheless, even the left—ostensibly having some passing familiarity with the notion of fetishism—speaks of a right to, say, “health care,” which is manifest in practice as a highly technological enterprise, one that embodies the same unequal-exchange-as-imperial-tribute as most modern technology. And so, rather than raise the discomfiting contradiction between (a) an opposition to African child miners scratching precious metals out of a ruined earth to support the computers that run everything from hospital administration computers to MRIs to proton therapy, and (b) the “right” everyone in, e.g., the United States has to institutionalized medical assistance.
If that care is extracted to the detriment of child miners, the child miners are consistently sacrificed, because money is the basis of modern power, and those with more have more. The computer you are reading this on is courtesy of an African child miner, a poisoned river, a newly extinct species . . . out of sight, out of mind, eh?
So if there is a universal right to "health care," you're going to have to describe with a great deal of specificity what "health care" means. Does it include heart transplants for all? Does it mean every single person in the world (if it's just in one place, it ain't universal) has a right to extended end-of-life time extensions based on every drug and every machine that has been invented? Does it means pretending that death is not an inevitable part of life?
A universal right to education? Define education. Beyond a glorified daycare zoo that sorts children by age, no matter how different otherwise, and sorts them by rehearsed performances, and sets them up in cruel little age-segregated internal pecking orders, and teaches them that if you are disinclined to read, for example, you are a failure as a human being. Beyond the actual content of these "educations," which are mostly state propaganda designed by the ruling class's faithful retainer classes. The content matters. The method matters. Most childhood drugs (a boon to the drug industry) are designed to make children who don't like the environment of school for myriad and quite justifiable reasons more compliant with this decade plus of capitalist conformity indoctrination. Schools are indispensable day-care centers for parents who are forced to work for some boss to survive: they sort children into multiple creepy hierarchies that damage many of them for life.
You can't fix that. Stop lying. And you can't universalize it . . . thank God.
And so the Promethian left, pumping its own brand of sunshine, seizes on “development” initiatives, institutional charity, and redistribution as the “solution,” which it is demonstrably not; because the more environmentally attuned on the left also know that to “develop” the whole world to technological parity with the Atlantic powers would require a couple of extra planets. There is an Elon Musk joke here, but then Musk and his Martian fantasies are already eminently lampoonable.
The right can admit this, because they couldn't give a shit less about other people, who don't have their money-entitlement, and they know their power to do whatever they want without actually working for it is based on keeping people in a state of desperation.
And I'm all about a single-payer health system, but no, everyone does not have a "right" to a heart transplant—not in any substantive sense—because the procedure, which only delays the inevitable, is not available to everyone, and before it is, well . . . there's that three earths thing again. We are all going to die, by and by.
This having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too delusion is based on radical technological optimism; and it ought to concern the left that is seeing an historical window open for it that hasn’t been opened in decades.
In short, it is possible that within a decade or less, socialists might actually win elections and inherit the shit show that is neoliberal failure, a self-cannibalizing process of financialization accompanied by collapsing infrastructure, popular revolt, and loony demagogues in positions of power. When Teen Vogue carries friendly articles on Marx, we can infer that the political ground in the metropoles has shifted. So an urgent question emerges.
What if the left wins? So who knows? I’m running for office, too . . . not sure which one yet . . . and I’ll caucus with y’all.
The danger, of course, is that, once in power, the left has the opportunity to fail spectacularly and discredit themselves, whereupon the also resurgent right-wing can rebound. No doubt, the right and the “civil society” center will attempt to sabotage the left at every turn, which provides an excuse (as if we don’t already know that a snake behaves like a snake) for future failures.
Repeat: If you blow it, because you have a really poor grasp of how self-organized these structures are, then you can fade back into oblivion for another hundred years.
Given that this will be the case, the left—especially if it fails to come to terms with the radical technological optimism in its ranks—cannot afford to compound these predictable obstacles with blunders of its own: the first being making promises that cannot be met; the second being cooking up schemes to fulfill the unfulfillable promises that give the right and center a stick with which to beat the left.
All your talk about imperialism, and you promote millions of solar panels, closing the digital divide, and sex change surgery for ten-year-olds, when all these rights are accomplished through material flows that embody unequal exchange between the imperial centers and the subjugated peripheries. Let’s eat an African child. Let’s kill off a species. Let’s poison a river that is out of sight and out of mind.
The production of technology presupposes the production of energy, which makes both inherently two things: exploitative and unsustainable. Alexander Dunlap recently wrote: “Industrial-scale renewable energy does nothing to remake exploitative relationships with the earth, and instead represents the renewal and expansion of the present capitalist order.” Yep!
So as your candidate, I want to pop these “renewable energy” balloons, too. Just one of those pharaonic wind conversion towers is a collection of 170 tons of steel, fourteen tons of fiberglass, almost four tons of carbon fiber, twenty-five tons of cast iron, two and a half tons of copper, fifty-four tons of aluminum, and 600 tons of lubricants. And a poisoned river, a poverty-stricken child, a fresh extinction. Long as it’s far away where we can’t see, okay?
And so you will ask, chagrined by the loss of an illusion, “Then what are we to do?”
The right refuses to map the flow of labor-value in order to isolate the exchanges between employee and employer, for example, as an unequal exchange (by externalizing any contradictory terms). But the left is often guilty of the same kind of externalization with regard to technology, which is what Alf Hornborg calls “machine fetishism.”
The actual energy "footprint" of the wind turbine has to include mining, milling, fabrication, transportation, maintenance, et al, for each piece, each component; and in the pre-fabrication extractive enterprises, the imperial tribute of unequal exchange. That's the stuff you get cheap here from child miners and sixteen year old girls in sweatshops and un-landed peasants working for peanuts abroad.
There is no clear line of demarcation between this exploitative plunder and the big capitalist's oversized share from the points of waged production.
When we assert a right to education, a right to health care, a right to a job, we have externalized all the particulars in our incessant phrase-mongering, especially the supporting technology, with its material and energetic flows that are necessary for, say, an American surgical suite, and American classroom, or a particular American job (hauling waste to a landfill? Peddling insurance—the “commodification of uncertainty”?).
When Engels wrote Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, he criticized the Levellers and Anabaptists for promoting a socialism that was “unscientific,” but he and his hirsute colleague themselves described a happy end-time where, with the assistance of technology, the state withers away around a self-regulating communism (Ha! Our technology is not possible without the state!) that was “scientific” precisely because it saw technology as the basis of our future bliss. They had the dreaded machine fetishism disorder! (soon to be included in the DSM XXV)
Our radical technological optimism’s now revealed as an illusion by science itself (beginning with the Second Law of Thermodynamics), Marx and Engels were, by today’s lights, utopians. And many of their intellectual offspring cling to that Promethean optimism, even as climate change has confronted us with a century-to-come of unpredictable climate destabilization.
What the evidence available to us now shows, with regard to imperialism and ecology (including environmental racism), is that the future over the next few decades will confront us with a choice, not between socialism and capitalism, but between riding a vehicle over a cliff or leaving the vehicle behind and taking our bruises from the leap. My campaign motto: “No to Rectal Sunshine!”
And you Malthusians and devotes of male survivalist adventurism? You like to frame this as a problem of human nature and the chance to avoid the issue altogether by escaping into outlandish dystopian fantasies, respectively. The reactionary illusion complementary to the "progressive" one! Let the Devil take the hindmost.
But the dangers of unpredictable political destabilization are far greater, as we have all ascertained after Trump started rattling his nuclear sabre. And the ecology that is evolving called late capitalism cannot long sustain the already shaky status quo.
Capitalism developed industrialism, and industrialism developed capitalism. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Marx-inspired state socialism was a reaction, an afterthought, a crude imitation. From Lenin’s Notes on Electrification:
Significance of Electrification
1. Modern technics.
2. Restoration of productive forces. Increasing them.
4. Communism= Soviet power + electrification.
5. General integrated plan: focusing the people’s attention and energies.
6. Raising culture (of the working people).
6. Not simple literacy.
1) Decree endorsing the plan ....
2) Mobilization of technical forces.
Assembling both electrical engineering and labor forces.
Utilization of stations.
Agitation and propaganda.
Teaching of theoretical and practical knowledge about electricity.
3) Decree on GOELRO.
4) Decree on Engineering Department ....
5) Decree on All-Russia Electrical Engineering Congress.
6) Petrograd. Coal from abroad via Murmansk.
Really? The uber-left still thinks this guy is our leading light?
As Jason W. Moore explains,
It is difficult for me to read the Soviet project as a fundamental rupture. The great industrialization drive of the 1930s relied massively on the importation of fixed capital, which by 1931 constituted 90 percent of Soviet imports. The Soviets were so desperate to obtain hard currency that “the state was prepared to export anything and everything, from gold, oil and furs to the pictures in the Hermitage Museum.” If the Soviet project resembles other modes of production, it is surely the tributary, not socialist, mode of production, through which the state directly extracts the surplus. Nor did the Soviets turn inwards after 1945. Soviet trade with OECD countries (in constant dollars) increased 8.9 percent annually between 1950 and 1970, rising to 17.9 percent a year in the following decade a trend accompanied by sharply deteriorating terms of trade and rising debt across the Soviet-led zone.
It is apparent from Lenin’s notes that—admittedly out of an urgent sense of self-defense among other things—the drive to industrialize was paramount; and to get there (by decree) necessitated the worst kind of alienated labor, the Party embracing Taylorism and attacking local subsistence economies (their own version of industrial enclosure). Combined with the conviction that socialism could be developed by decree, the experiment was violent and short-lived, morphing into yet another patriarchal, aspiring capitalist core nation in search of exploitable peripheries to sustain accumulation for its ruling class.
Two massive forces are coming together in today’s capitalist ecology. The first is climate destabilization, as the major driver. Capitalism's last little gift to us. The second is the as yet unforeseeable end-game of self-cannibalizing global financialization, the creation of trillions of dollars (and satellite currencies) in completely fictional value looming against a troubled sky like the Hindenberg. This reliance on rents to sustain accumulation will only continue apace with the increasing scarcity of capitalism’s essential “cheap” feedstocks—cheap food, cheap labor, cheap energy, cheap raw materials.
Which means I have to pop another progressive bubble: redistribution of money. That's not gold you're talking about. It's not even cowry shells. It's a cipher whose "value" is sustained by illusions, and when the illusions crumble, you have people pushing wheelbarrows of cash to buy a loaf of bread.
Neither climate destabilization nor the dangerous dominance of rentier capitalists can be grasped without a theory of money that addresses them both simultaneously. And yet you treat it as if it is an artefact of nature, like gallons in an aquifer, or joules in a liter of gas.
Money is the entitlement, the sign, the institution, the social and biospheric solvent that confers power; and if we can’t sustain “growth” with bricks and mortar, so to speak, we’ll put the whole show in the hands of rentiers who would, like most of us, rather gamble than work. This fact is overwhelming in its force and simplicity, and yet the left has undertheorized money itself.
So the polemical refrain of “Money for X (schools, hospitals, transportation, et al), and not for war!” does four things at once:
(1) demonstrates a complete absence of understanding how the rentier (war) economy sustains the purchasing power of the dollar (the world’s core currency), which can shrink before that redistributive spending begins, based on economic cascades generated by policies preceding redistribution;
(2) demonstrates an even more common failure to grasp how general-purpose money itself and inherently reproduces capitalist social relations;
(3) makes promises socialists will inevitably break, undermining future socialists in power, opening the way to reactionaries in their wake; and
(4) reiterates (or "reinscribes," if you like the po-mo idiom) radical technological optimism.
In Dunlap’s article quoted above, he indicts “industrial scale renewable energy,” wherever that fuzzy boundary between non-industrial and industrial scale is, and scale is certainly part of the problem. But scale is to industrial production what fever is to malaria, symptom and not source. Malaria begins as a protozoan organism; and industrial scale is the outworking of general-purpose money.
Industrialism, the technical outworking of capitalist accumulation, is an inherently imperial process that requires inputs from exploitable peripheries that always represents an increase in the rate of dissipation (thermodynamic) and disorder (ecologic). What money ensures, as an exchange accelerator and disciplinary institution (enforced scarcity and dependence, combined with enclosure and progressive commodification), is that the most ecologically destabilizing practices are rewarded: the greater the ecologic destabilization, the greater the reward. Redistribution does exactly nada to change this.
Conservation is actually the greatest threat to accumulation. So if you want to overthrow the system, become radical conservationists.
To develop the whole world to the “level” (as if this were independent of the core-periphery dynamic) of the core industrial nations would require several planets, this is correct; but in its Malthusian assumptions, it fails to account for the fact that the industrial development and maintenance of these core nations is constituted fundamentally by their parasitic relationship with the peripheries. In a different scale, this is also true of cities and countryside.
Dear American, your life cannibalizes the life of an African child miner.
The collapse of the Roman Empire was substantially caused by imperial overstretch necessitated by the despoliation of land and water, first in near geographical proximity, then successively further away. Imperial systems import order and export disorder. Your lifestyle is maintained by this dynamic. The rest was recorded as history, but it was what medics call sequelae. The knock-on effect.
In Rome, they went from Republic to dictatorship, dictatorship to civil war, civil war to dissolution. We might be headed the same way . . . in our own special way.
The scale of Roman conquest was limited by reliance on the military. General-purpose money is a far more effective agent. One uncited reason, prior to the groundbreaking work of Alf Hornborg, is semiotic. Let’s review.
Marx (using Aristotle’s concept) described the difference between use-value and exchange-value in the commodity. Extending that analysis as we consider general-purpose money-as-a-sign, how do we account for the difference between general-purpose money (as opposed to local currency and specie money of various kinds) and other signs?
“In politics all abstract terms conceal treachery.”
Abstraction is decontextualization. General-purpose money is among the highest flying of all abstractions. As a sign, it is unique. Modern general-purpose money is not a symbol, because it stands for nothing. It is not a language. Money is not to a thing-for-sale as a word is to an object. Money doesn’t relate to money itself like words, as describing differences and forms, because the only difference in money is more or less. General-purpose fiat money is not symbolic of anything for which it is exchanged. There are no cultural conventions that establish a symbolic relation. The red on the traffic light is understood in a cultural context. Prior to car traffic, or in the absence of car traffic, it has no meaning. We might be able to say that a pizza symbolizes a particular sum of money (even this is questionable), making money a referent; but we’d never say that a sum of money symbolizes a pizza.
The pseudoscience of economics tells us that money is the measure of all things without differentiation. This is why we can exchange “rain forests for Coca-Cola.” Money appears only as a cipher (i.e., $). “Growth,” for example, using only $ is how we measure the economy. “We had three percent growth [in $] this year.” What does that actually mean? Does it tell us how many people are rich? Poor? Homeless? Does it tell us anything about food quality? About illness? The state of a power grid? The fitness of water to drink in Flint, Michigan? Births? Deaths? Soil health? Air quality? Types of employment? What are the economic preoccupations of you and your family right now?
Economists use the measure called Gross Domestic Product, an averaged calculation of how much profit there is overall, how much money is spent overall, and how much money is received in income overall. These are reduced to a single number; and that number represents only a bald quantity of a single formless quality: $. In 2015, that was around $18 trillion for the United States. It made no difference whether that money circulated through goat farms, resort hotels, convenience stores, or weapons factories. They are all reflected by the same code: $. One thing might be $$, and another more expensive one $$$$$$$$; but the code is otherwise undifferentiated, like a piano with one key. Even computer code, because it has to accommodate specific information, differentiation, and context, requires two. Even the simplest DNA requires four nucleotides, points out Hornborg. “We could regard money,” he says, “as a communicative disorder.”
When you say “Money for stick candy instead of war,” you are still saying $$$$$$$$$. Duh duh duh duh duh.
The conceptual cornerstone of economic science [$] is thus as vague as the most abstract definition possible of the most elementary unit of communication. It specifies absolutely nothing about the substance of economic processes. The all-engulfing character of modernity is generated by this tendency toward abstraction— that is, by the use of signs (including concepts such as “utility”) that can stand for anything to anybody. The core of our “culture” is a black hole; at the heart of our cosmology are empty signs. (Hornborg)
So why does a semiotic analysis of general-purpose money matter in a discussion of political ecology?
An image that occurs to me when I think of this is from the 1979 sci-fi classic Alien. A crew member on a spacecraft has been biologically colonized by an unknown life form that has attached to his face. When the crew member is laid down in the infirmary, another crew member takes a scalpel and nips at one of the creature’s joints. The laceration expresses a gooey fluid that, rather than hit the floor and stop, burns through the floor. The crew then run downstairs, one level, then another, watching the acid burn its way toward the hull, whereupon the craft would lose its seal and the crew would become space litter. Eventually, the acid stops, to everyone’s relief.
When I sign by pointing to the dog, the sign finds its resting place, its stopping point, at the dog. If I utter the word red, the sign finds its stopping point at the appearance of the color red. Money does not do that, because it has no referent. Nothing says—pun intended—the buck stops here. In this respect, then, general-purpose money is very much like an infinitely powerful acid, or solvent. It moves between things, and between the parts of things, and separates them from their context. It separates the gold from the geography in which it begins. It separates people from the communities in which they live. It separates the fish from the fishery, then separate the keepers from the by-catch.
The entire counter-entropic assertion of the biosphere is fundamentally based on the webwork of relations that are mutually contextualizing, and that contextualization is selected for in the evolutionary process. Biotic systems become more resilient through ever greater diversification, and that diversification progressively demands more complex relations of interdependency. In other words, natural systems are dynamically stable based on this mutual contextualization. Massive interventions by human beings disrupt that stability, and, seeing as how humans are not apart from nature (the Cartesian delusion), in turn disrupt the stability of human communities.
Redistributive schemes, whether through democratic, tributary, or communitarian economies, cannot on their own resolve unjust social relations, without taking into account both the dangerous nature of money—as a solvent, as an acid.
Moreover, no system, even a socialist one, can overcome this difficulty without taking into account technology, in its specificity, which itself already—like capital—embodies an unequal social relation.
So now that I'm the skunk at the party on this "money-thing," let me say what I believe will likely happen.
Once in power, these realities--in conjunction with outside pressures you can't even imagine yet--will force you to get right back in line with the "money-thing" and don't even think about using the imaginary "power of the state" against them, because the military-security-police apparatus will already be plotting with the ruling class—who pays well in a pinch—to wipe the political floor with you, while the media cheerleads.
But if you get on the Sanderista wave and ride desperation and partial-consciousness into power, what happens then? Well, I'm running for office, so I'll tell you what I propose.
Ruthless conservation. Decades of psychological dislocation and hardship. And letting a lot of institutions and practices die of neglect.
Because general-purpose money is an ecological phenomenon that dissolves traditions, communities, and the biosphere, any transition worth its salt will have to begin the long march to reduce our dependence on general-purpose money, which inevitably means some form of the radical relocalization of all basic production, draconian control of “markets,” the gradual death by benign neglect of old transportation grids, and the reorganization of political subdivisions around watersheds instead of arbitrary lines drawn on the map.
To this end, the state’s role would be crucial. Once key industries and infrastructure are placed under public control and price controls established, nonessential industries would need to be systematically closed down. As they are closed, massive public works training and jobs programs would be established to guarantee uninterrupted full employment at living wages; and those jobs would need to be geared to the transitional projects for repairing environmental damage and setting the stage for thoroughgoing relocalization. With price controls, the state could print money for this purpose (they’ve printed about a trillion dollars to bail out bond traders so far). Priority programs would remediate areas and communities where environmental injustices have been the worst.
A maximum wage system would need to be established for various professionals—doctors, lawyers, etc. Dramatic conservation measures would need to be taken and enforced, beginning with energy rationing and including any nonessential production that relies on imports that depend upon postcolonial (neoliberal) unequal exchange relations abroad. All subsidies and allowances in agriculture and forestry would be cancelled and/or redirected for both relocalization and sustainability. Any industry that exceeds a certain number of employees and which is not directed wholly by the state would be reorganized as worker-owned. All industry oversight and management would be conducted by subsets of the central authority who are representative of their watersheds. All subsidies to fossil energy extraction and refinement would need to be ended, and a transition program for all workers in those industries into public works.
As to money, and this may be the most radical proposal of all—but it takes into account what we have studied with regard to money as the sign with no referent—one proposal has been a two-money system. Hornborg sums it up:
Perhaps transforming our money system is the only chance we have. General-purpose money rewards the dissipation of resources with every more resources to dissipate, until they are gone, or at least inaccessible. The dilemma of sustainability thus seems to be the very juxtaposition of this socio-cultural institution with the . . . facts of entropy, limited land area, and finite stocks of resources. The problem could thus be expressed as the consequences of money in a universe obeying the Second Law of Thermodynamics. If this is indeed recognized as our fundamental problem, it is much less problematic to conclude which of these factors—general-purpose money or the Second Law of Thermodynamics—can be changed through political decisions. Money is a cultural sign system invented by humans and in the long run perhaps the only factor we can hope to transform in the interest of sustainability.
What Hornborg and others have proposed is a dual money system—which they call a multi-centric economy. The state or other polities issue two forms of currency. One form would be the existing national currency, which will be eventually transitioned into a currency for long-distance exchange. The other would be local scripts, exchangeable only within certain boundaries (watersheds?) and only for subsistence commodities produced within those boundaries: locally grown food, locally produced tools, re-used items (thrift shops), organic fuels, materials extracted from local land (wood, fibers, plants, mulch, compost, et al.), local transport assistance, and local services. This script would be issued as a substantial portion of the guaranteed minimum income. Local script would be absolutely tax-free and could be used to hire temporary informal labor. In the short term, this may actually increase the exchanges using national currency, because it would free more income for non-local commodities; but over the longer term, the advantages afforded by local script, in conjunction with policies that promote increased local production, would strengthen the script as well as stabilize the local economy. In particular, given that local food production would be exchangeable for local script that is issued as part of a guaranteed minimum income, this system would promote small-scale, local agriculture, which is an essential—if not the essential—component of any larger transition. It would likewise inoculate local production from the solvent-effect of the national general-purpose currency, and set the stage for the most important general change of all: a de-financialized, de-growth economy.
The goal of short and mid-term social control over the economy through a democratic state is not the stabilization of a social-democratic state, but the transition to a de-financialized, de-growth economy. Without this kind of emergency program, what we have now—crisis-wracked and headed for disaster—will stutter along and crash, leaving us even more vulnerable to authoritarian reactionaries than we already are, as evidenced by the narrow election of Trump. Long-term and intentional watershed-based relocalization is far more radical than the nationalistic and nostalgic Keyenesians of Bernie Sanders’ stripe, but a real alternative needs to be articulated, with a vision upon which to build a real resistance to the period of reaction we are now entering. How that looks will depend on many things that are yet to be discovered in the process of redesigning the built environment; and if we do not redesign the built environment, that very environment will return us to our present practical and epistemological default positions on the runaway train.
Like it or not, we are already miles along the path of a world emergency. We may fail to take this kind of dramatic action, to mount this kind of resistance, to enter into this kind of mass movement; but if we fail at that, we will categorically leave our grandchildren a desperate, insecure, miserable, and more dangerous world. For far too many around the world and at home, this is already the reality.
But there you have my program. Elect me . . . but you’ll need to elect about ten thousand more who are ready for the same.
No Rectal Sunshine!
If you want this razor-keen analysis in the form of an unassailable and extended argument, buy my new book, Mammon's Ecology: Metaphysic of the Empty Sign, from Wipf and Stock Publishers. (For the time being, we are still using money.)